DRUG POLICY IS NATIONAL PLAN FOR ACTION

  • Roger Sowry
Social Services, Work and Income

For the first time in New Zealand's history we have a plan for action to combat drug abuse and prevent drug-related harm, the Associate Minister of Health, Hon Roger Sowry said in launching part two of the Government's National Drug Policy.

Part Two, which completes the National Drug Policy, deals with illicit and other drugs, and follows part one on tobacco and alcohol released in mid-1996.

The Minister acknowledged that while tobacco and alcohol are New Zealand's two big public health 'killers', there is a need to address the growth of illicit and other drugs and the problems they create.

"Chronic cannabis use or glue sniffing can lead to people alienating themselves from society, and education, work and social opportunities are lost. Using illicit drugs will also lead to trouble with the Police and involvement in the criminal justice system.

"Drug use is an issue that affects all levels of our society and imposes serious health and economic costs on all New Zealanders.

"This National Policy sends a clear message to New Zealanders that we will not tolerate any form of drug related harm, and we have a plan to stop the growth of a hard drug market in New Zealand.

"This five year strategy is a sensible plan for action that brings together the many Government agencies and non-Government groups who work with drug abuse, and provides a framework with a common goal to work towards.

"This is a major step forward, as up until now most agencies - including Government - have not been working to a common goal, so any long term plans and interventions to combat drug abuse have been haphazard.

"It makes sense for all these groups to coordinate the way they deliver services if we are to really make progress on the priorities set out in the national drug policy."

"The Government's main priority for action on illicit drugs is to reduce the widespread use of cannabis and use of other drugs.

"In particular we want to see a reduction in the number of young people using cannabis, those at-risk, pregnant women, and Maori.

"One of our policy's goals is to prevent a hard drugs market becoming established in New Zealand. The Police and Customs Service are already working well together to prevent organised crime groups with drug connections from gaining a foothold in New Zealand.

"If we can stop drugs from reaching our shores, we stand a better chance of preventing the human misery caused by the illicit drug trade that many other countries have experienced," says Mr Sowry.

The National Drug Policy focuses not only on controlling the supply of drugs, but on how to reduce the demand for drugs in the first place, and putting in place effective health services to treat people who end up developing drug problems, he says.

"The Government has immediately established a special committee of Cabinet Ministers to oversee the policy and recommend which new drug-related initiatives should be recommended to Government.

"This National Drug Policy is a major step forward for Government and non-Government agencies who deal daily with the realities of drug use, spelling out what we want to achieve in the next five years and how we plan to take action," says Mr Sowry.

Ends.

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Government's Drug Policy Welcomed
New Zealand's largest NGO group in the drug and alcohol sector has joined others in welcoming the release of the Government''s national policy on illicit and other drugs.

According to Sally Jackman, Executive Director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation (NZDF):

"This policy is a good first step based on sound principles. It assures us that future drug strategies will be based on research rather than prejudice. It establishes a much needed mechanism for co-operation between agencies and identifies problem areas. Mr Sowry has shown leadership here and should be congratulated. Now we need urgent implementation."
Ms Jackman was responding to today's release of Part 2 of the Government's National Drug Policy, on illicit and other drugs. Part 1 of the policy, covering tobacco and alcohol, was released in 1996.

When approached for comment, other leading figures in the drug and alcohol sector had this to say:

Major Wilfred Arnold, National Manager, Addiction and Disability Services, Salvation Army:

"The Salvation Army supports the release of the Government's National Drug Policy' [It] sets an overall direction and framework for co-ordination among government departments, which can only be helpful. We commend the acknowledgment that, to be successful, the National Drug Policy needs the support and participation of non-governmental organisations and the local community. We are strongly supportive of the commitment to ensure the needs of M aori are addressed in a manner acceptable to Maori. The National Drug Policy adopts a significantly new and clear direction, that of harm minimisation, which has not always been acceptable to a large sector of the community. However, the Salvation Army commends the Government for a five-year policy which includes health promotion programmes 'promoting the value of remaining drug free'."
Colin Bramfitt, Executive Director, Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Education (FADE):

"Recognition that we need to work together on this, with government departments linking with non-government agencies such as FADE and improved resourcing of community-based initiatives, is a real strength in this policy. Such co-operative action is very positive and much needed if we are going to reduce drug-related problems and improve the health and well-being of New Zealanders."
Terence Fitzgerald, Chairman, National Society on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NSAD):

"NSAD welcomes the National Drug Policy as a timely initiative which signals a determination to grapple with a major problem in our society. We hope that all relevant Government agencies will formulate policies that are consistent with and fully supportive of it. Non-government agencies now have clear guidelines and priorities to work to, and a committed partner to work with, to achieve substantial reduction in substance abuse and the consequent harm to individuals and society."
Dr Doug Sellman, National Centre for Treatment Development (Alcohol, Drugs & Addiction):

"The Government's National Drug Policy represents a positive step forward in dealing with the problems associated with alcohol and drug misuse in New Zealand. It provides strategic direction over the next five years within which health promotion, treatment and research activities can be better integrated. In particular the policy emphasises the importance of taking an overall harm reduction approach in this challenging area and identifies appropriate groups for specific focus."
Hon Roger McClay, Commissioner for Children:

"The release of the National Drug Policy is an exciting advance towards a healthier future for us all. It clearly recognises the multiple social impacts of excessive and illegal drug use not only on individuals, but on society. This document offers a co-ordinated approach to addressing these issues, and clearly recognises children's rights to protection from involvement in illicit drug manufacture or distribution."
Dr Barbara Disley, Mental Health Commissioner:

"The Mental Health Commission welcomes the completion of the National Drug Policy. The directions for treatment services and training which it talks about complement those set out in the Commission's own Blueprint for Mental Health Services. The policy' intersectoral approach is critical to dealing effectively with the misuse of drugs. We also fully support the proposal to develop better treatment services, particularly for people who suffer both drug use problems and mental illness - often called 'dual diagnosis' patients - who in the past have been pretty poorly served. The policy emphasises, rightly so, the need for a much greater focus on the needs of 'dual diagnosis' patients, and for appropriate training so that service providers have the skills required to properly care for them.'
Dr Mike MacAvoy, Chief Executive, Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC):

"ALAC welcomes the National Drug Policy. Importantly, the Government has adopted a leadership role in reducing drug-related harm. The policy recognises that drug issues are best addressed through a number of levels and from all sectors of the community. ALAC is about to release a National Alcohol Strategy for consultation which is compatible with the National Drug Policy, and begins the task of turning the policy into action."